Thass me, your jibber-jabbering Sulawesi booted macaque, most amused to be
braining rodents with fig buds from up high,
near the tippy top branch of my tuq-tuq tree, and that’s no lie,
when you passed by below wearing I forget now which look.
You gazed up and smiled, sweet-like: ‘Why not c’mon on down, Joe?’
How’d you get onto all that? And we’re talking not just ‘Joe’
but the local macaque lingo ? No one else could possibly know
but Mommy Catawba and Sorella-si, who’d prefer not to – know.
So down I scramble, with that studied pause&pose, how I do.
Curious, I was, thrilled, even reckless – given the prospect of jungly fare
that might be awaiting me at the bottom there: vipers, crocs, cats –
but careful of my hair, lest the bark catch it up and cause a tear.
Then, hey presto, there I y’am, eye to eye with the buckle of your belt,
Toenails painted crimson, lipstick too, like the ass of a certain baboon I knew.
You opened your blouse, urged me to take suck. Talk about blind macaque luck!
Oh, it was heaven, heaven past eleven, there in the shade of the tuq-tuq.

Know what? She was almost like me, but human and seldom found up trees.
She just kept on nodding as I spoke – or jibber-jibber-jabber’d, no matter.
What a marvel, the mess of riffs, tales&compleynt that spilled forth.
Then because or in spite of, maybe by custom, she lifted her skirts
and proffered unto me – mercy – the loveliest basket of warm desserts.
A-monk-a-monk-a-me, a-monk-a-monk-a-yoo
I once knew a lady wot lived in a shoe
Had so many laces she didn’t know wot to do
So many laces, faces, places … Wot’s a girl to do?
I jibber-jabbered, jibber-jibber-jabbered myself to a proper lather
and whipped that lather into a nice thick batter and baked up a waffle for you.
A-monk-a-me-a-monk-a-yoo, I baked up a waffle for yoo

did ‘The Itch’, ‘The Scratch’, ‘The Scrunch’, ‘The Shimmy’,
first at the Macombo, then Bisquick Jimmy’s,
danced us some Buzz Step at the Du Drop till 4,
slipped back into gear, closed down Pete’s Notorious Zanzibar.
Come dawn I played ‘You the Foo’ on air-guitar.
You shrieked, you coo’d: I was your macaque mega-star.
I filled your head with jungle lore. ‘Sulawesi Baby Boy,
says you, ‘Tell me, tell me, tell me some more!’

I once knew a lady who lived in a shoe
Had so many laces, eyelets, tassels, hassles, faces to see, places to be …
Wot, oh, wot’s a girl to do?

Now I’m back in my tuq-tuq tree, where, you might say, I was meant to be.
Every so often I try to be human.
Right time, right place, right face – then forget myself once I get to groovin’.
Thing is, what I most need to remember,
scurry on back up before there’s a change in the weather.
But you know what? DO YOU KNOW WHAT?
I’m having such a ball, never ever do quite manage to get my act together.
Get my ass caught out in the rain, all hell breaks loose.
My fur gets so damn wet and funky, can’t hardly move.
And that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E for this old monkey:
critter red alert! – and me, well, might as well be stuck in a tub of glue.
I get bit. I get stung. Pretty momma’s gone back to wherever she’s from.
It’s a long, long way back up there, bloodied and beat.
I’m hanging out with the flying squirrels from now on, believe you me.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences